By Dana Leger
Rabat – Two worshippers were killed and several others wounded in a stabbing attack at a mosque in Malmesbury, South Africa, in the early morning on Thursday. Western Cape police have confirmed that the attacker was shot dead.
Fellow worshippers said there was no warning that the suspect was about to commit the violent crime.
“A couple of hours ago – about 03:00 – as people got themselves ready to pray, the suspect just got up and started stabbing the people. He was praying with them,” Malmesbury Police Constable Henry Durant told News24.
“The suspect, believed to be in his thirties and armed with a knife, charged at the police who tried to persuade him to hand himself over,” said Noloyiso Rwexana, spokeswoman for the Western Cape police.
“He ignored the calls and tried to attack police. He was shot and killed in the process. His death will be investigated by IPID,” provincial police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andrè Traut said.
Rwexana added that police are now “combing the scene for clues.”
Local media reported that the suspect was Somali, but police have not confirmed this.
“We don’t know anything. There is no information, there is no motive, there’s nothing like that,” said Durant.
“It’s way too soon to speculate as to a possible motive – or link with any other incident in the country,” Traut told the eNCA broadcaster.
The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), which represents the Muslim community in South Africa, said it was “shocked to the core” over the incident, which came at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
The MJC urged the community not to jump to conclusions about the attacker’s motives and said its top leadership would travel to the area to assist the community.
— Jacaranda News (@JacaNews) June 14, 2018
Thursday’s attack comes about a month after an attack at a mosque in the town of Verulam, on the outskirts of the eastern port city of Durban. The unidentified assailants killed a mosque leader by slitting his throat and injured two others after midday prayers.
The assailants from that attack also set off a petrol bomb inside the mosque, escaped in a car, and still remain at large.
Morocco has also experienced violence at mosques recently. Just a few weeks before the Verulam attack, a man attempted to stab an imam at Hassan Mosque in Rabat on May 4, although no injuries were recorded. An oddly similar incident followed at Al Hamd Mosque in Casablanca on May 16, where a worshipper was stabbed in the abdomen and immediately taken to a nearby hospital.